Lattes are one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world. The perfect harmony of dark espresso and sweet, creamy milk is irresistible. Our guide will walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to make a latte at home.
From choosing the right beans to steaming your milk, we’ll cover these topics to get you started on your latte making experience:
- What is a latte?
- How do you make a latte at home?
- Latte vs cappuccino vs cortado
- Best espresso beans for lattes
- How to make a latte without an espresso machine
- Can you make a latte with regular coffee?
- How to make a dairy-free (vegan) latte
- Best latte flavors
- Alternative latte recipes
- Does a latte have more caffeine than drip coffee?
What is a latte?
A latte is a coffee drink made from espresso and steamed milk. The word caffe latte comes from the Italian word caffè e latte, which stands for ‘coffee and milk’. The normal latte recipe consists of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk. On the top is a thin layer of foam made from milk.
The steamed milk is usually made with a steam wand on the side of an espresso machine. As the milk warms, it becomes sweeter and creamier, making a delicious balance with the espresso. A skilled barista will be able to steam the milk while creating a smooth and delicate foam.
How do you make a latte at home?
We will guide you through how to make a latte at home if you have an espresso machine. If you do not have a machine at home, we will explain how to do so down below.
How to make a latte at home
- Espresso machine
- Milk frother
- Coffee mug
- 20 grams espresso
- Step 1: Grind your beansGrind your coffee using a burr grinder. We recommend a burr as it evenly grinds the coffee beans. For the price and performance, we think that Bodum’s Bistro Burr Grinder is a great choice.
- Step 2: Tamp your coffee. Place your ground coffee in the portafilter and tamp down evenly. Keep your arm 90 degrees perpendicular to the table to allow for even tamping.
- Step 3: Pull your shot. Put your portafilter in the espresso machine group head and pull your shot. You can use a double or single shot for your latte. Clean your portafilter and group head when finished.
- Step 4: Froth your milk. Fill your milk pitcher with milk till 1/3 full. Lightly froth the milk and then enter the steam wand further down into the milk to steam. The milk should be shiny and when you swirl, it should slightly stick to the sides of the milk pitcher.
- Step 5: Pour your espresso. Angle your espresso cup slightly and pour your milk in from about 2 inches above the cup. Pour in a circular motion to help mix the espresso and milk.
- Step 6: Pour your foam. When around 2/3 full, lower the milk pitcher to around 1/2 an inch. Pour in the milk to any shape you want like a heart or flower. This is tricky and takes some practice! As the cup gets full, slowly start to angle it so it becomes flat.
- Step 7: Drink up. Enjoy your homemade latte!
How to make a latte without an espresso machine
If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, fear not! Here’s everything you need to know to make a latte at home without one.
Brewing your espresso
There are a couple of ways to brew your espresso without a machine.
Our top recommendation is to use a Moka Pot. It uses a different amount of pressure than an espresso machine so it doesn’t create 100% espresso. But the flavor is as close you can get without a machine!
First, you put hot water in the bottom chamber and finely ground coffee in the top chamber. Place the Moka pot on the stove and heat. When the water heats up, it turns to steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and pushes the water up through the coffee.
The second method is using an Aeropress. Using finely ground beans, place them into the Aeropress along with hot water. Allow the hot water to immerse the coffee grounds and then push it through using the plunger. This uses both immersion and percolation so it is very versatile to make different strength coffee.
Both the Moka pot and the Aeropress use pressure to brew their coffee.
They’re similar to an espresso machine in this regard but the amount of pressure used is very different. Aeropress can generate 0.35 to 0.75 bars of pressure. Moka pots use around 1 to 2 bars. In contrast, espresso uses around 7-9 bars of pressure.
As a result, they don’t brew true espresso but the flavor is close.
Steaming your milk
There are multiple ways you can steam and froth your milk.
Our barista-recommended way is to use a handheld electric milk frother that will heat your milk as well as foam it.
You can also steam your milk by using a french press. If you are a tea or drip coffee lover, you may have one of these lying around. Heat your milk in the microwave then add it to your french press and plunge it several times to froth your milk.
If you have neither of the above, you can do it old school and heat your milk in a saucepan and use a whisk to froth your milk. Be sure you don’t accidentally boil your milk otherwise, you’ll lose the sweetness and the milk will become bitter!
Latte vs cappuccino vs cortado
There is some confusion on what defines a latte, a cappuccino, and a cortado. So we want to clear any questions you may have.
As we mentioned before, lattes are made up of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk with a thin layer of foamed milk. This creates a sweet, cream, and subtle coffee flavor. This harmony of flavors makes it easy to drink for anyone.
Cappuccinos are made up of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. This is topped with a thicker layer of frothed milk and has a stronger espresso taste and lighter mouthfeel. Cappuccinos have three distinct layers whereas a latte is mixed together.
Cortados have a Spanish origin whereas the cappuccino and the latte are Italian. The word ‘cortado’ actually means ‘to cut’, which is a reference to the milk cutting the darkness of the espresso. A traditional cortado is equal parts espresso and steamed milk, similar to a cappuccino. The main difference between the two is there is no foamed milk in a cortado.
Best espresso beans for lattes
The best espresso beans for lattes come down to your personal taste!
For a sweet and fruity flavor, light roasts are recommended. Light roast beans don’t have the standard coffee flavor and taste more like fruit tea or juice. The resulting latte will taste delicious but have more fruity notes than espresso.
Baristas sometimes have trouble with ‘channeling’ when brewing their espresso. This is when under extraction occurs due to the water flowing through less resistant paths through the coffee grounds. As light roast beans are extremely hard compared to dark roast, this may be an issue.
To balance the sweet and creamy milk in a latte, typically a darker roast is used. This way you can enjoy both flavors of the milk and the subtleness of the espresso. If you are looking for a middle ground of fruitiness and darkness, we recommend a medium roast.
Can you make a latte with regular coffee?
Technically speaking yes you can. Using an Aeropress and Moka pot makes strongly brewed coffee, which has similarities to espresso. The grind size is very fine, which helps produce a drip coffee that has a similar flavor.
How to make a dairy-free latte
Milk is pivotal in creating your latte as it contributes 2/3 of the drink. If you are vegan and looking for some dairy alternatives, here are some tips to choose the right plant-based milk.
Soy milk is the most common alternative to cow’s milk. Soy milk is very popular in most coffee shops. We find that using Silk’s Soymilk adds a rich creaminess like whole milk.
But if you’re looking to practice your latte art with soy milk, it might be hard. We found it a little difficult to pour.
If you can find almond milk with high protein content, then it is the perfect substitute for whole milk. It also adds a delicious creaminess and a slightly nutty taste. The protein will help create a nice foam and stabilize it so that you can practice your latte art.
If you are planning to use oat milk, then we suggest Oatly’s Barista edition oat milk. This has been specially made for coffee so it’s not sold in supermarkets. Oat milk has a nice creaminess and sweetness to it and it steams and foams well.
Can you make lattes with skim milk?
If you can drink cow’s milk but are looking for an alternative to reduce the heaviness and full body of whole milk, then we suggest skimmed milk. The low-fat content makes it lighter and easier to drink. However, it doesn’t froth as well as whole milk.
Best latte flavors
One of the most popular latte flavors is a vanilla latte. A splash of vanilla extract gives the latte an aromatic and sweet boost. It is naturally sweet so no additional sugar is needed!
Caramel lattes are a little sweeter than vanilla but you get a little bit of darkness from it. It has a cozy, warming flavor reminiscent of caramel candy.
In Starbucks, the pumpkin spice latte is a fall fan favorite. In 2019, CNBC reported that over 424 million PSLs have been sold worldwide. It is a delicious fall drink and is a top choice of ours!
Beyond caramel, vanilla, and pumpkin spice there are dozens of latte flavors to choose from. It’s one of the reasons they’re so popular among coffee lovers!
Alternative latte recipes
There is no strict latte recipe to follow, which makes it so versatile. Once you have frothed milk, you can add any topping you want, such as chocolate syrup or even maple syrup! A cute way to show off spice up your lattes is to serve them in a mason jar. We love doing this in the summer, especially with iced lattes!
One alternative latte recipe we love is chai.
To make a chai latte you can use pretty much any black tea you like with your favorite spices. We recommend using an Assam or Darjeeling black tea as they have a fantastic depth of flavor. Heat your selected spices and water, then steep the tea bags for 5 minutes. It’s simple and delicious! You can also customize your chai latte according to the season and your mood.
If you are looking for alternative tea lattes, we have a guide on here.
Does a latte have more caffeine than drip coffee?
One shot of espresso has around 40mg of caffeine. If we assume that a 12oz latte contains a double shot, it has 80mg of caffeine.
Drip coffee contains approximately 10mg of caffeine per ounce.
Therefore, a 12oz drip coffee has 120mg of caffeine.
No matter how many espresso shots you use in a latte, lattes will always have more caffeine than a drip coffee, assuming they are the same size.
The amount of caffeine in each drink does not affect the taste and it shouldn’t determine what you drink (unless you are watching your caffeine intake). If you want to control the caffeine content in your cup of coffee, you need to increase the weight of the coffee grounds.
There’s a misconception that steeping your coffee longer will produce more caffeine. But this will just make it taste bitter and unpleasant.
Takeaways on making a latte like a pro
Lattes are a great starter drink to master for new and long-time coffee lovers. The sweet and creamy milk combined with the subtle espresso taste is very easy to drink and make! With these barista-approved tips and tricks, you can try your hand at whipping up drinks to suit every taste and try your hand at making your own latte art. So get out there and get experimenting! The coffee is calling!